“In a world where Canon and Nikon rule, and Sony fights for dominance,… one man stands alone….
“…With a Pentax in hand. Only one rages against….
Actually, it is more than just one. I cannot speak for everyone, but I can say why I am a Pentaxian. It did not start for me by choice, but by the fact that my very first SLR was a Pentax. That made me invest in Pentax glass. That investment made me lean towards Pentax for all future purchases.
That is how it is with most devotees. Whether Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax or Sony, or even the new kids on the block, Fujifilm & Sigma, one’s initial investment generally leads one to stay in the camp. However, when the opportunity to leave a camp arises, it may take more to keep that devotion.
I was being drawn away from the world of the film SLR for quite some time, and what kept me in film for so long was disappointment in the then level of digital technology. I have a feeling that that was what took Pentax that long to enter the DSLR market; waiting for the technology to mature. Experimenting with the digital darkroom through scanned prints and negatives, I had already decided that 12 MPx was the least that I would accept, but 16 MPx or better is what I wanted.
Even when Pentax took the plunge, I was not happy. I found their first offering wanting. My issues were detail resolution, and shadow noise. Why did my devotion not fade then? Because ① there was no one else worth going to, and ② Pentax was doing some things right which others were not doing.
I thought that their colour rendition and shadow detail were better than most. There were some offerings from other makes which had acceptable resolution, but noise & colour were lacking, costs were high, and features were not strong. So I waited with my film cameras firmly in hand. (Well, until they weren’t, but that is another story).
This was the first DSLR to hit my radar. At a mere 14 MPx, it was below my desired target, but enough “pro” features, including weather sealing, to make it worth considering. I took it for a test drive and found the image details still wanting. It was not until the Sigma Foveon 10 MPx came out that I realised that the problem goes further than just megapixels.
One of the strongest reasons that I did not buy the Sigma, was an uneducated, and rude salesman, who asked me to leave, (long story). I obliged, because I wanted an educated salesman. I never took the time to properly evaluate it at the time.
*The K-5 IIs & K-3*
Then came the K-5IIs. When I read about the lack of an OLPF, I thought it may be a solution to the “lack of detail” problem, and it was a 16.3 MPx camera. Indeed, independent tests proved the wisdom of doing so. I then tested it, and was satisfied, and started budgeting for a system. Just as I was about to make a purchase, the K-3 came out, and I bought that instead.
So now I have a Pentax DSLR kit, and, due to the financial investment, am now dedicated. But clearly there came a time when I had no film nor digital kit, and could have gone any direction. (Indeed, I also considered the Samsung DSLR for a while, also without an AA filter). So that brings us back to the question, “Why Pentax?” Before I answer that, I will answer, “Why not BrandX,” (in alphabetical order).
Although Canon had many pro models, with many pro features, they never had a good ‘all-rounder’ with most of my desired pro features. If it had a high frame-rate, it had a low resolution. If it had a high res sensor, it had a low DR. It had poor shadow detail. Additionally, it came at a high cost, as did its lenses.
Much better sensors, resolution, colour, features, et al. The only ‘one big thing’ was cost, which in recent years have become more tamed. In addition, there were a few little things, but I may have been able to live without those, had other makers not have them.
My concerns, without real-world data to justify it, were shadow details, DoF, low-light performance, etc., based entirely on the small, MFT sensor size. These concerns were then, and still are, unfounded. Nevertheless, it affected my decision, along with the evf. I would definitely recommend the OM-D EM-1 II today, (but not even the mark I was out at the time).
They do not make photography gear; they make cinematography gear which are capable of taking photographs. Also, the MFT thing applied. (…Or not, as the case really is).
I have much to say on photography gear versus cinematography gear, but that is another article for another time.
This is not a joke. I did seriously consider the Samsung Galaxy NX & NX1. They had the resolution, the low-light/shadow performance, the pro-features, the weather-sealing, et al. What they did not have was the track-record of an established camera manufacturer, and a wide assortment of accessories. Hindsight has shown my decision to not purchase was wise.
Sony seemed to have offered everything at the time, but I had two small issues, which I ought not have allowed to sway me; the image quality and lag (back then) of the evf, and lack of lenses, (back then). Sony has since improved, and, I concede, would today be a fine choice.
What I chose had it all; high resolution, high DR, great shadow/low-light performance, image detail, (no OLPF), pro-features, glass selection, accessories, and great price. It was just about perfect, (but still has room to improve).
It even offers features that other makers —at the time— did not have. Even if another maker provided a comparable model, it would typically be at a much higher price-point.
Except for the addition of Fujifilm to the pro-photography market, and the Foveon sensor, nothing has really changed. (Oh, and Samsung has left the business). I can still only recommend Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, and Sony to the new, general photographer, who has no investment in a kit. Of the lot, Pentax has the best bang for the buck.
Well, why not Fujifilm? Despite the hype around the X-Trans sensor, it fails to actually deliver, (in my estimation) on any of its promises, save for less likelihood of colour moire.
I keep seeing reviews where they speak of the great colour accuracy, and they post pictures to ‘prove’ it, and I have to wonder why the examples they show are so bad. I download raw files and bring them into my workflow and still wonder what went wrong. I have had friends show me side-by-side comparisons, saying, “See, right there. It’s obvious!” I still do not see it. I think sometimes people see what they want to see. (Maybe it's me)!
I think the science on it is obvious. The 6×6 X-Trans CFA, clearly is superior in reducing moire, but the filter transform approximation is clearly making more approximations, with more distant data, to produce the colours and luminosity values at any given pixel, when compared to the 4×4 Bayer CFA transform approximation.
By the same logic, the best sensor for colour & luminosity accuracy would be the Foveon sensor. It completely eliminates colour moire & luminosity value approximations, and does not need neighbouring pixels to do the colour approximation. It is by far the best sensor for details, at any given final resolution, (bar PixelShift™ on stationary subjects).
It has two drawbacks; colour accuracy in low light —which is not really a problem at native sensitivity & near-saturated highlights, since our eyes have that issue,— and small final resolution. My 16 Mpx rule still applies.
Granted, the 46 MPx SD1 is very close at 15 Mpx, and with its Foveon sensor has great detail, but the camera is missing some pro features, including fast, dual storage, accepting only one, CF type-1 card. I think Sigma has the technology to succeed, (they certainly have the lenses), but they need to put it in an acceptable package.
I eagerly look for the day when there is a pro-level Foveon camera on the market, from Sigma or anyone else.
Dual card slots on all but two current models, (But on all “pro” models). With the exception of the 6×4.5 model, at least 3-axis image stabilisation, (5-axis on some models), and PixelShift™ Resolution. Pentax has full weather sealing on all current models, optional DNG raw files, at least 24 MPx, no OLPF, AA simulator, plethora of exposure modes, including several multi-exposure modes, and unique exposure modes such as TAV, Sv, & hyper-exposure modes, etc.
Their weather sealed lenses are fully sealed, not just the electronics, or from camera body ingress. Their lens hoods take into consideration the way photographers work, allowing for rotating filters. Their metadata stores all metadata, including everything corrected from GPS/compass/inclinometers, including bearing & direction, (true North for both), altitude, yaw, elevation, pitch, speed, et al, not to mention photographer and copyright.
Their systems seem very ergonomical, and well laid out. They think about how a photographer may take pictures, when designing most of their cameras. Additionally, they know that all photographers do not think the same, so they have allowed massive customisations.
Pentax has always been a leader in new photography technology, including, (contrary to several opinions) IBSR, PixelShift™, and AstroTracer™ to name a few. They were counted among the Fabulous Five of 35 mm film SLR, and the Fantastic Four of medium format film SLR. Despite much lower sales numbers than in the previous century, they continue to innovate with the new Dynamic PixelShift and other technologies, earning their place in the ranks of the modern DSLR pro-market.
I can say much more on this issue, but that would be a long article of its own, where I discuss the killer features I find in the Pentax brand. That being said, Today I remain a Pentaxian for the usual reason; devotion built on a solid investment. It is still possible that, if I had to start over with nothing, I may look towards Nikon, Olympus, or Sony. But a better bang for the buck is hard to find.
I am pentaxian because of the process. Pentax has great colour, good resolution (it comparison to the other dslr of the same release time), and imo not so good autofocus, imo many other cameras has better autofocus, but they don't give the wow process moment. Ergonomics, excellent viewfinder, the click sound of the shutter, it makes the process that give you happiness, that enforce you to use camera more often. I have heard that Fuji give the same effect, but digital evf is no comparison to ovf for now.